Labor & Employment

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Employment at Will

One of the fundamental principles of Florida labor law is the “Employment at Will" Doctrine. At its core, the employment at will doctrine states that an employee can be terminated at any time for any reason, so long as the firing is not done for an unlawful reason. Florida law further provides that employers need not be fair to employees nor must they act in good faith towards their employees. Therefore, to maintain an action for wrongful discharge, the employee must determine whether the discharge was for an unlawful purpose. The following is a partial list of exceptions, i.e. unlawful purposes, to the employment at will doctrine. This list is not all inclusive.

Discrimination: Discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or marital status is prohibited. Harassment based upon any of these factors is also prohibited and is discussed more fully in this Website under the practice area “ Sexual Harassment ”.

Acquired Immune Deficience Syndrome (AIDS): Discrimination based upon having acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or based upon having taken an AIDS test, or based upon results or perceived results is prohibited.

Jury Duty: An employer is prohibited from discharging an employee who attends jury duty.

Whistle-Blowing: Employers are forbidden to discharge or retaliate against an employee for his or her disclosing information involving a violation of state or federal law, or for refusing to participate in any conduct forbidden by law.

Workers Compensation: Employers are forbidden from threatening to discharge, discharging, intimidating or coercing any employee by reason of an employee’s valid claim or attempting to claim workers compensation.

Federal Provisions : Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This act prohibits disability discrimination for serious disabilities, as defined under the act, and states that employers must reasonably accommodate a disabled employee. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids employee discrimination on the basis of age, with a minimum age requirement of 40. Finally, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides that an employee may have up to 90 days unpaid leave for certain medical and family matters under certain circumstances. An employer may not demote or discharge an employee because of such leave and may not discriminate against or discharge an employee for filing a charge under the FMLA.

It is critical to note, however, that the employment at will doctrine does not apply when there is a valid written contract of employment. When an employment contract is definite in regard to its term, including a starting and ending date of employment,and rate of pay, the terms of that contract will be enforced. Oral employment contracts are only enforceable if capable of being performed within one year.

The information provided above is intended to give you a basic understanding of the "Employment at Will" Doctrine, but this does not constitute legal advice and it cannot substitute for a thorough review and determination of individual employment issues, situations and requirements with your attorney.

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